13 October 2013


 From Nation of Change 12 OCTOBER 2013

From the Experimental GMO Fields of Kauai to the TPP: Connecting the Dots

By Andrea Brower

Much attention has been turned in recent months to the fact that the agro-chemical/GMO industry -- corporate giants Dow, Pioneer DuPont, Syngenta, Monsanto, BASF -- have been using Hawaii since the 1990s as one of their main testing grounds for experiments engineering new pesticide-crop combos. On the "Garden Island" of Kauai, the industry controls over 15,000 acres of prime agricultural land, which they drench with over 17 tons of restricted-use pesticides each year, and likely at least five times that amount in non-restricted pesticides that may be equally as harmful (such as glyphosate).

Because genetically engineered seeds are most typically designed to be used in conjunction with specific pesticides, the development of new GE crops (or at least the types the industry is choosing to develop) requires repeated applications of these chemicals and their mixing into new toxic cocktails with unknown consequences. From a lawsuit, we know that Pioneer DuPont alone has used 90 pesticide formulations with 63 active ingredients in the past 6 years. They apply these pesticides around 250 (sometimes 300) days each year, with 10-16 applications per day on average. The amount of pesticides used on the island by these operations makes the corn fields in Kansas look organic.
Pesticides are sprayed next to schools, hospitals, neighborhoods and major waterways, with zero buffer zone and zero public knowledge of what is being sprayed and when it will happen. Preliminary evidence suggests that living in the shadow of these companies may be causing alarming rates of rare birth defects and cancers. Residents' complaints of asthma, skin rashes, nose bleeds and migraines are common. There have been several incidents of groups of students at a neighboring school collapsing and falling ill, and a reported eleven teachers have had to leave the small school in the past few years due to health concerns. While they are spending millions marketing themselves as "good neighbors," the chemical companies are doing everything they can to fight even the most basic pesticide disclosure and small buffer zones around schools.

The TPP.

At the international level, through the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) these same chemical corporations are seeking to lock us in to arrangements that guarantee their profit interests will not be impeded by pesky democratic governments protecting people's health or other common interests. The TPP is a highly secretive international agreement being negotiated under the pretext of "trade" between twelve Asian and Pacific Rim countries, including the United States. If passed, it will amount to perhaps the biggest corporate power-grab in history, putting the rights of corporations above those of elected governments and sovereign nations.

Under the cryptic title of "Investor State Dispute Settlement" (ISDS), foreign corporations could challenge national and local laws and regulations that undermine their expected profits, holding tax-payers liable for these losses. Challenges could be brought for everything from attempts to regulate pesticide use to health warnings on cigarettes. Governments would be tried in private offshore tribunals that lack transparency and due process.

Where they already exist, these private tribunals routinely put the economic interests of corporations ahead of the rights of people and governments. Under NAFTA's ISDS provisions the Mexican government was sued by three separate corporations for their tax on High Fructose Corn Syrup, and forced to pay nearly $170 million USD. The highest monetary award in the history of ISDS was ruled on last year when Ecuador was ordered to pay $1.77 billion to Occidental Petroleum Corp for terminating their oil contract.

Like preceding "free-trade" agreements, the TPP will lower environmental and labor protections, weaken biosecurity and food safety efforts, encourage a "race-to-the bottom" in agricultural production, cripple local food economies, lead to further corporate consolidation in all parts of the food chain, and threaten indigenous rights to land and resources. Most fundamentally, the TPP will radically undermine people's ability to participate in defining what kind of future they want. While we can't know the exact details of the TPP because it is being negotiated in secret, what is certain is that it is advancing a food future designed by Monstanto, DuPont, Syngenta and the rest of the agribusiness giants.

Connecting the dots.

What is the logic that is driving a corporate food system forward? How has it become acceptable to allow the world's largest chemical manufacturers to experiment with pesticide cocktails next to schools, while at the same time giving these corporations more power to sue democratic governments attempting to protect people's most basic rights? When we already have all the technology and agricultural knowledge that we need to be feeding every person on the planet sustainably, why do we seem to be choosing paths that are remarkably undemocratic, ecologically and socially destructive?
It is true that money in politics, the "revolving door" in government, corporate media and lack of general public awareness all play a role in promoting a food system that serves the interests of the few over the many. But more fundamentally, we need to pay attention to the driving logics behind a food system in which meeting human needs is obviously not the priority.

Centuries in the making and decades in the congealing (thank you Reaganomics), our corporate food system is the result of subjecting food and agriculture to the logics of privatization, commodification, and the competitive accumulation of wealth at all expense. In other words, food and agriculture have increasingly been turned into a domain for money to make more money. While the complexity and detail of this are a bit much for an already-too-long blog post, some basic points are worth mentioning:

Free monopoly markets.

Not by accident, "free market" policies have facilitated a "foodopoly" system, where a handful of agro-food corporations stand between growers and consumers. Today, 20 food corporations produce most of the food eaten by Americans, including organic brands, and four retail chains control over half of all grocery sales. Their power has been facilitated by the TPP's predecessors, and because of their power they sit in the negotiating room for the TPP.

Monopolies always need more money to win the game. Everyone else pays.

Corporations have a single structural mandate -- to make profit for their shareholders. To make profit, agro-food corporations must relentlessly grow, seek new markets, and drive down costs by exploiting people and nature. In the frontiers of wild-west agro-food capitalism, it is a game of who can take the most and get away with it. Syngenta and DuPont have no choice but to endanger bees and biodiversity while lobbying for anti-democratic trade agreements and saturating the planet in glyphosate, atrazine and neonicotinoids. It is more financially prudent for them to spend millions suing the little County of Kauai than to agree to disclose their pesticide use. If Syngenta decided tomorrow to pay just for the health care costs of all the people worldwide harmed by their chemicals, not to mention for environmental remediation or the costs of damaged ecosystem services, there would be nothing left of their bottom-line. We are paying their true costs.

New fences necessary.

For money to make more money, new markets are needed. Over the past centuries, food and the resources to grow it have continuously been transformed into new money-making opportunities by imposing private property in spaces that were perviously considered "common." Today we are witnessing this in the privatization of our common genetic wealth, and in the massive global "land grab" that is expropriating millions of acres of farmland and accompanying water rights from peasant growers in the name of "productivity" and "development" (i.e. folding resources and people into the global capitalist market). Once something becomes "private," society has a difficult time recalling that is was ever considered something that belongs to us all.

Plenty of wealth, but none for the people doing the work. 

As money searches to make new money in the agro-food system, farmers and farm-workers fare the worst. Worldwide, farmers are squeezed in every direction by the agro-food corporations that control agricultural inputs, distribution, processing, marketing and retail sales. The market is anything but "free" for growers, for whom what is produced, how it is produced, and for whom it is produced is increasingly decided by shareholder's profitability margins. It is smallholder farmers who, following decades of policy that displaces local agricultural economies in favor of commodity cash-crops, have become the world's main victims of poverty and hunger.

Keep paying the bank, even when it's well past bloated.

The deregulation of the agricultural commodities futures market 13 years ago signaled a new extreme in turning food and agriculture entirely over to the interests of the capitalist market.
In the past years there has been an influx of purely financial players who seek solely to profit from changes in food prices. Hedge funds, pension funds and investment banks such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Barclays Capital now dominate the food commodities markets, with speculative investment in 2011 amounting to 20 times the amount spent by all countries on agricultural aid. A very small number of people are getting rich gambling on hunger.

The logics advancing a corporate food system are not new. What has perhaps become more visible today are the consequences of believing that the best way to organize our economy is around the competitive accumulation of wealth and turning virtually everything into private property so that the almighty market (or more accurately, the players who have the most market power) can dictate what is and isn't good for us. What ends up being good for us is the poisoning of Hawaii and the creation of corporate courts with the power to block democracy. Somebody is making money, and according to the logic of capitalism, that's what matters.

The possibility of something better.

There is no shortage of ways to move in the more sane direction of a food system that actually feeds everybody, provides decent livelihoods, and preserves ecological integrity. For starters: enforce anti-trust laws to break up monopolies in the food system; change policies to support farmers and farmworkers rather than corporate agribusiness; support organizational structures like workers' cooperatives where benefits are distributed more equitably; get banks out of the business of speculating on hunger (and out of policy-making more generally); tax the incredible profits of corporate food giants to fund public distribution systems that affirm food as a basic human right; terminate patents on our genetic commons; redirect resources towards public (versus privatized and non-transparent) agricultural science that mimics nature instead of industry; support the capacity of all nations to feed themselves by strategies based on the right to food; pay more attention to the very intelligent voices of peasants demanding food sovereignty. And on Kauai, pass a strong Bill 2491!

There is much more that could go on this list, and beyond these, we need to think big, to question the logics and structures that have created the need for such proposals in the first place. We cannot be fearful of articulating more "radical," or "at the root" visions and solutions. The values that most of us would claim to share -- democracy, fairness, cooperation, ecological sustainability, taking care of one another -- need to become the logics that structure our food system. When we are poisoning the possibility of an inhabitable planet into the future, allowing a billion to go hungry though there is more than enough to feed everybody, and loosing our last shreds of true democracy -- all in the name of "the market" -- it is well past time to reclaim our common humanity.



3 October 2013

Two articles examining the state of the left in Australian politics have recently been published, one shortly before the recent federal election and one immediately after.

The election was held on Saturday 7 September 2013 and Jeff Sparrow’s article, “The Day After the Night Before”, was published on Sunday 8 September in Overland online.

Tad Tietze’s article, “A Change in the Order of Things – the Fate of the Greens”, was published in the print edition of Overland, Issue 212 Spring 2013.

Tietze examines the state of the Greens and their role in the alliance which allowed the ALP Gillard government to govern with the assistance of a few other independents who became major players in the 3-year government.

He analyses the parts they played in a left agenda – left of the ALP – in providing a home for many voters disillusioned by the ALP’s massive swing to the right on issues such as the asylum seekers, and how their participation in a very unpopular government may have helped many people alter their support and seek alternative homes for their political beliefs.

It seems as if this problem affected the Greens’ support with the loss of support in some states, but strangely saw an increase in support in Victoria which seems to have bucked the national trend.

The Greens have one basic problem – they are trying to be too much like the 2 or 3 mainstream parties – for instance when Lee Rhiannon supported the Palestinians because she rightly sees Israel as being an apartheid state oppressing the people whose land they have stolen – and having been in the NSW state parliament when all hell broke out because of Marrickville Council’s support of the BDS movement which Rhiannon supported – when she entered federal parliament as a senator she was made to “toe the party line” and not show partisan support for Palestine as against Israel. WTF!!!

As for Sparrow and the left and looking forward and not backward, the left pathetically is not out there making the case for the major issues of the day being loudly in the public arena – where is the left’s response to the dictatorial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which promises –secretively – to destroy the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the Internet and much else besides – and these are only the dribs and drabs which have been leaked for people to just get an inkling of the goings-on behind closed doors by 12 countries – so far – with more to be added as and when required.

Australia and New Zealand are 2 of the 12 countries, but you wouldn’t know anything about this from our “left” groups. Fortunately, one of the left organisations in Australia is an offshoot of a US based radical socialist group which has a newspaper regularly sent to people in Australia, and their latest edition has a large article on the TPP.

Also in this edition of the paper is a large supportive article for Private Chelsea Manning (previously Private Bradley Manning) There should be major rallying events for Manning in Australia when supporters in the US ask for international support – and what do we get in Australia from the wimpy left? Nothing to record and no publicity to advise!

In the UK, left leaning people, frustrated by the left groups’ stagnation in their abilities to challenge the policies of government and opposition regarding urgent austerity measures, organised nationally and created the People’s Assembly to have meetings and branches around the country and to demonstrate where politicians were assembling to formulate their attacks on their citizens and grind the 99 percent even lower so that the 1 percent could continue making capital at the further expense of the unemployed workers.

The new Australian government, post 7 September 2013, will be attempting to do similarly to Australian workers what the UK government is doing, and, unless there are mass protest movements, they will of course succeed.

We should all be on the streets every week, protesting at the secrecy of the Trans-Pacific Partnerships’ unknown but leaked items which are going to affect us all in ways undreamt of by the unsuspecting citizens.

If we want to make any progress as leftists we also need to ensure that the Greens come out of their “conservative” closet and show they really are an organisation of the left, and for them to stop being scared of what the reactions of the major parties will be to their new-found activism.

One of the issues of the day, and the excuses government are using to wage their wars in the middle east, packs of lies as they all are, is the Israel/Palestine story which hasn’t gone away, despite the US and Israel doing their best to prove that the Palestinians are not capable of finding anyone to do their negotiating. It really is time for the left to concentrate on outing the lies and to get on with political education of people out there who need this information to be able to make informed decisions and understand what they are arguing about.

Where are the organisers of yesteryear to organise and teach new cohorts, why are there no fighters shouting from the rooftops? Have we lost the will to protest?

Sparrow says we must not be pessimistic, but look forward, but we need the current generations to be there to educate the next generations before all is lost – irrevocably!

06 October 2013

THE TINY TIP OF THE TITANIC ICEBERG - ‘A Corporate Trojan Horse:’ Obama Pushes Secretive TPP Trade Pact

‘A Corporate Trojan Horse:’ Obama Pushes Secretive TPP Trade Pact, Would Rewrite Swath of US Laws

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez
Democracy Now! / Video Interview
Published: Friday 4 October 2013
“It is a corporate Trojan horse. The agreement has 29 chapters and only five of them have to do with trade.”

As the federal government shutdown continues, Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Asia for secret talks on a sweeping new trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is often referred to by critics as "NAFTA on steroids," and would establish a free trade zone that would stretch from Vietnam to Chile, encompassing 800 million people — about a third of world trade and nearly 40 percent of the global economy. While the text of the treaty has been largely negotiated behind closed doors and, until June, kept secret from Congress, more than 600 corporate advisers reportedly have access to the measure, including employees of Halliburton and Monsanto. "This is not mainly about trade," says Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. "It is a corporate Trojan horse. The agreement has 29 chapters, and only five of them have to do with trade. The other 24 chapters either handcuff our domestic governments, limiting food safety, environmental standards, financial regulation, energy and climate policy, or establishing new powers for corporations."
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: President Obama announced this week that the U.S. government shutdown would delay his upcoming four-country trip to Asia, but that negotiations on a controversial new trade agreement he hopes to sign by the end of the year will continue to move forward. Obama called the Philippines president Tuesday night to say he would miss his visit, and a spokesperson shared the news with reporters Thursday.
RICKY CARANDANG: Secretary Kerry ... he will go in place of President Obama. President Obama personally called President Aquino to tell him—to explain to him why he could not make the visit.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: John Kerry will attend Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings next week in Indonesia, where he’ll push for the completion of a sweeping new trade deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the largest international trade deal since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995. The administration hopes to pass the measure through Congress by the end of the year using its Fast Track authority to limit lawmakers to an up-or-down vote.
AMY GOODMAN: The TPP is often referred to by critics as "NAFTA on steroids" and would establishing a free trade zone that would stretch from Vietnam to Chile, encompass 800 million people—about a third of world trade and nearly 40 percent of the global economy. While the text of the treaty has been largely negotiated behind closed doors, more than 600 corporate advisers reportedly have access to the measure, including employees of Halliburton and Monsanto.
Well, for more, we’re joined by Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
Lori, welcome back to Democracy Now! Just explain what the TPP is.
LORI WALLACH: Well, one of the most important things to understand is it’s not really mainly about trade. I guess the way to think about it is as a corporate Trojan horse. The agreement has 29 chapters, and only five of them have to do with trade. The other 24 chapters either handcuff our domestic governments, limiting food safety, environmental standards, financial regulation, energy and climate policy, or establishing new powers for corporations.
For instance, there are the same investor privileges that promote job offshoring to lower-wage countries. There is a ban on Buy Local procurement, so that corporations have a right to do sourcing, basically taking our tax dollars, and instead of investing them in our local economy, sending them offshore. There are new rights to, for instance, have freedom to enter other countries and take natural resources, a right for mining, a right for oil, gas, without approval.
And then there’s a whole set of very worrisome issues relating to Internet freedom. Through sort of the backdoor of the copyright chapter of TPP is a whole chunk of SOPA, the Stop Online Privacy Act, that activism around the country successfully derailed a year ago. Think about all the things that would be really hard to get into effect as a corporation in public, a lot of them rejected here and in the other 11 countries, and that is what’s bundled in to the TPP. And every country would be required to change its laws domestically to meet these rules. The binding provision is, each country shall ensure the conformity of domestic laws, regulations and procedures.
Now, the only reason I know that level of detail is because a few texts have leaked, and I have been following the negotiations and grilling negotiators from other countries to try and find between the lines what the hell is going on; otherwise, totally secret.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Lori, about that secrecy, even members of Congress have been severely limited in what they can learn, and that’s only after the revelations about the total secrecy that this whole process began with. Could you talk about what members of Congress are allowed to know and how?
LORI WALLACH: Well, what’s really important for people to know—and this gets to what you started out with about Fast Track. Congress has exclusive constitutional authority over trade. It’s kind of like the Boston Tea Party hangover. After having a king just impose tariffs, in that case on tea, the founders said, "We need to put all things about trade, international commerce, in the hands of Congress, the most diffuse part of the elected representation, not the executive, the king." So Congress has all this authority. They’re supposed to be exclusively in control. But until this June, they were not even allowed to see the draft text.
And it was only after a big, great fuss was kicked up by a lot of members—150 of them wrote last year—that finally members of Congress, upon request for the particular chapter, can have a government administration official bring them a chapter. Their staff is thrown out of the room. They can’t take detailed notes. They’re not supposed to talk about what they saw. And they can, without staff to help them figure out what the technical language is, look at a chapter. This is in contrast to, say, even what the Bush administration did. The last time we had one of these mega-NAFTAexpansion attempts was the Free Trade Area of the Americas. And in that instance, in 2001, that whole draft text was released to the public by the U.S. government on the official government websites. So, this is extraordinary secrecy, and members of Congress aren’t supposed to tell anyone what they’ve read. So, for instance, you know, Alan Grayson, who was one of the guys who helped to get the text released, Alan Grayson said, "I can tell you it’s very bad for the future of America. I just can’t tell you why." That’s obscene.
This would rewrite wide swaths of our laws. And again, it’s mainly not about trade. So, if we have this agreement in effect, for instance, it would be a big push for fracking. Now you would say, "Why fracking?" Because it doesn’t allow us to have bans on liquid natural gas exports. Or, if this were in effect, we couldn’t ensure the safety of the food we feed our families. We have to import, for instance, fish and shrimp that we know, from the limited inspection that’s done, is extremely dangerous from certain kinds of growing ponds that are contaminated, etc., in some of the TPPcountries. Or, for instance, some of the financial reforms where the banksters were finally regulated would be rolled back. All of this, and it would be privately enforceable by certain foreign corporations.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about a bill that didn’t make it through Congress, but the question is, is it incorporated into TPP? And that’s SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act. First explain what it is, and talk about where it fits in here.
LORI WALLACH: So, the Stop Online Piracy Act was a vehicle basically to take away some of our rights on the Internet. It would have criminalized what they call inadvertent, small-scale, non-commercial copying. And the example would be, for instance, Juan, I had you over to dinner. You liked the recipe I had. I happened to have taken it for $2 I paid for it off of a paid website. And you said, "Lori, can you send me that recipe?" And, of course, I said, "Yeah," and I sent it to you. That is officially a copyright violation. I should say, "You have to go pay $2 and get it yourself, Juan." But, in fact, it’s small-scale. I didn’t sell it. It’s not commercial. I didn’t send it to a lot of people.
That kind of activity, under SOPA, as well as any number of things we do all the time—making a copy, or like a buffer copy that our computer would make to look at a video, or breaking a digital lock—for instance, if we bought software, but we wanted to run it on Linux—all of those things would be considered criminal activities. We’d face huge fines, and our carriers—Google, etc.—would have to take us off of service, to black us out. So, a huge limit on Internet freedom.
That whole mess was defeated in Congress in a wonderful citizen uprising. A chunk of that is now stuck in the copyright chapter of SOPA—of TPP. So, they call TPP "son of SOPA." In a lot of countries around the TPP region, citizens have fought to have good laws that actually provide them access and don’t allow that kind of control. So, that is a chunk. To give you an idea of how varied the problems are, that’s a chunk of what is in there.
Now, the thing about that Fast Track you mentioned, Fast Track is not in effect. Fast Track is an extraordinary delegation of Congress’s authority. So if we don’t want unsafe food, offshore jobs,SOPA, SOPA, SOPA, limits on Internet freedom, the banksters gettings rolled back into deregulation, we have to make sure that Congress actually maintains its constitutional authority to make sure that before this agreement can be signed, it actually works for us. Fast Track is a delegation of authority. President Obama has asked for it, but it only happens if Congress gives it to him.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Lori, what’s been the Obama administration’s position on these negotiations in terms of tobacco? Could you talk about that specifically?
LORI WALLACH: Well, the whole approach of the Obama administration has really been, I don’t know, some combination of heartbreaking and infuriating, because when he was a candidate, President Obama promised he would replace the NAFTA model, and instead they’ve doubled down.
So the tobacco issue is one of those that’s the most gruesome. So, the TPP includes the very controversial investor-state system, which empowers individual corporations to directly sue governments—not in our courts, but in extrajudicial tribunals where three corporate attorneys act as "judges," and these guys rotate between being the judge and being the guys suing the government for the corporation. They’re empowered to give unlimited cash damages from us, the taxpayers, to these corporations for any government action—a regulatory issue, environment, health, safety—that undermines the investor’s expected future profits. Under that system, big tobacco companies have been attacking health regulations. And famously—infamously—these kinds of investor-state cases have extracted billions of dollars and undermined important laws. So, Philip Morris has used this to attack Australia, one of the TPP country’s plain-packaging-of-cigarette laws. So, a lot of the TPPcountries are very worried that they would be basically handcuffed from being able to regulate for health around tobacco. So, the U.S. originally was going to offer an exception. Big tobacco came in and basically won the day. The U.S. pulled away what was a medium exception, put in something that’s really worse than nothing, and then Malaysia came in and actually offered a real exception, which the U.S. is opposing—just like the U.S. is opposing an exception to maintain financial regulations for prudential reasons, just like the U.S. is opposing a real exception to those investor tribunals with respect to health and the environment. It’s incredibly depressing.
The only good news is a bunch of the other countries have basically said, "Basta! We are not going to roll back these things." So the reason there isn’t a deal is because a lot of the other countries are standing up to the worst of these U.S. corporate-inspired demands. You can see the whole lay of this at ExposeTheTPP, www.exposethetpp. There are fact sheets on each of the ways, each aspect of your life the TPP could affect. And if you want to get down into the weeds and have long papers explaining and/or information from other countries, you can go to tradewatch.org. That’stradewatch.org. Between those two sets of information, you’ll see there’s almost no part of your life or the things you care about that this agreement couldn’t undermine. And again, trade is the least of it.
AMY GOODMAN: Lori Wallach, we want to thank you very much for being with us. Lori Wallach is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. When we come back, President Obama is about to hit a new milestone: two million people deported under his administration. We’ll talk about it.

Author pic
ABOUT Amy Goodman
Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 900 stations in North America. She is the author of "Breaking the Sound Barrier," recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

01 October 2013


Trans-Pacific Partnership - how bland and innocent it sounds - but this is neither! This is a secret, secretive negotiation which our governments are keeping quiet about so that we don't know of its existence, and even if we do hear something by accident, we won't be able to ask any questions because we don't know what questions to ask!

Countries involved - at the moment - are: Japan, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US, Vietnam and Australia.

If you read all the articles below you will get some idea of what is being planned and how it will affect our lives in the future.

It sounds very grim and if one looks at what has leaked out so far, one can estimate that this is just the tip of a very nasty iceberg. The Titanic iceberg will be nothing compared with this one, and woe will be to us when we gradually understand the impacts being made on so many things we take for granted.

Just one example to frighten the pants off us old people - the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme as we know it will probably vanish altogether and subsidised medicines will be off the agenda and out expenses will be out of proportion to what we get as pensions.


Article from Credo – 19 August 2013

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been called “NAFTA on steroids” – and for good reason.
Negotiated behind closed doors by the governments of a dozen countries (including ours) colluding with corporate interests, this secret "trade" deal would eviscerate broad swaths of regulations that protect consumers, workers, the environment and the soundness of our financial system. And it would set up a legal regime where corporate profits trump the policy priorities of sovereign governments.

The first stage in the plan to pass the TPP is a big push for Congress to pass fast-track trade authority, which would short-circuit the typical legislative process when trade deals like the TPP come up for a vote.
Tell Congress: Say NO to fast-track trade authority. Click here to automatically sign the petition. 

Fast-track trade authority would allow the president to sign a trade deal before Congress has an opportunity to review or approve it. Then the president could send it to Congress for an up-or-down vote. Fast track would mean there would be no meaningful hearings, limited debate and absolutely no amendments to the deal. And there would be tremendous pressure on Congress to rubberstamp anything the president signs.

It's the job of Congress to fully vet trade deals and ensure they work for everyone, not just giant corporations. In fact the Constitution gives Congress exclusive authority over trade. And it would be a deeply irresponsible abdication of responsibility for Congress to pass fast track when we know the TPP is coming down the pike, especially when we know the consequences of the TPP could be disastrous.

That is why hundreds of groups including National Nurses United, the Sierra Club, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Democracy for America, and Public Citizen have spoken out against fast track.

Under the TPP, developing countries would lose access to lifesaving medicines. Unsafe foods and products could pour into our country while we’re powerless to stop them. Internet freedom would be a joke. Gone would be the days when the United States could regulate coal exports. And the excesses of our crazy intellectual property laws that privilege corporate control over innovation would be both exacerbated and extended internationally. 

You might think such a far-reaching proposal would be subject to intense public debate. But the text of the proposed deal is considered classified by our government and even members of Congress have been given extremely limited access to it.

We know the little we do know about the deal because drafts of some of its chapters were leaked last year.

Yet, while the government has kept the public and Congress largely in the dark about the TPP, it has given 600 corporate advisers access to the full text of the proposal.

Pressured by giant corporate interests that stand to make huge amounts of money on the deal, and faced with a public that has purposefully been kept ignorant about this deal, it’s not hard to see how the TPP could be rammed through Congress if fast-track trade authority were in place.

In fact, the reason the corporate lobby is pushing fast track is that they know the TPP could not get through Congress without this extraordinary power grab. So the first thing we need to do to fight back is to ensure Congress does not tie its own hands by passing fast-track trade authority. 

Tell Congress: Say NO to fast-track trade authority. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets


This item comes from the Daily Kos, 21 August 2013:

Trans-Pacific Partnership will be yet another bad deal for workers

The giant multinationals are pushing a trade deal that will literally let them bypass our laws. This deal is called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and it is coming at us in the next few months. The corporations are trying to switch this gravy-train onto the “Fast Track.” For them this deal is the light at the end of the tunnel of democracy and self-government that has been trying to reign them in. We need to get this runaway train back on the rails or We the People will be begging for scraps thrown from the caboose. Call your Senators and Representative today and let them know that people are paying attention and oppose “Fast Track trade authority.”
If TPP passes  it will override American law. Again: we will not be able to pass laws that reign in the corporations. We will not be able to protect our jobs and wages because, as we have seen, companies can just close a factory and move your job to a country that pays very little, doesn’t protect the environment, and doesn’t let working people do anything about it. Of course the giant companies want these agreements — they let them tell us that if we ask for decent wages or benefits they will fire us and move our job out of the country.

Anti-TPP protest in Singapore
Right now because of trade agreements already in effect we are not allowed to make laws  even putting information like “dolphin safe” on tuna can labels. El Salvador is being sued by a Canadian mining company for  trying to require environmental permits, because of a similar trade agreement. This is what these trade agreements mean to our ability to reign in the giant corporations.
The giant, multinational corporations and their business groups are hopeful that they can push this through. The Financial Times explains, in  Obama’s ‘fast-track’ trade push faces congressional delays:
Corporate lobbyists, who have been pushing for a quick and uncontroversial approval of TPA  [Fast Track], say they are still confident the talks will be successful.

“We are seeing signs of good support and momentum for TPA legislation in Congress and from the administration,” said David Thomas, vice-president for trade policy at the Business Roundtable, representing big blue-chip companies.

So here is what is coming— soon. Lobbyists for the giant multinationals have been working behind the scenes to slip Fast Track through their friends in Congress. They will argue that the usual process Congress holding hearings, getting everyone’s viewpoint and hearing everyone’s concerns, then amending as needed and carefully considering the bill before a vote (also known as “representative democracy”) will just get in the way of getting this done. They will want as much of this done behind the scenes because regular people will naturally be upset about our Congress handing over their authority like this.


Trade treaty stance the same, despite promise

The Age 23 September  2013


Peter Martin

Economics correspondent

Andrew Robb. Photo: Domino Postiglione

Foreign corporations wanting to sue Australian governments will have to cool their heels. New trade minister Andrew Robb says Australia's negotiating position on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement remains the same despite an election commitment to overturn the blanket prohibition on ''investor-state dispute settlement'' provisions.

The previous government declared point-blank that Australia would never again sign an agreement that included the provisions. One of the few trade agreements Australia has signed with such a clause allowed a Hong Kong-based subsidiary of tobacco giant Philip Morris to take Australia to an international tribunal over its plain-packaging laws, despite having lost its case in the High Court.

It is believed the United States was close to accommodating Australia's insistence by carving out an exemption for Australia while the other 10 signatories were bound by the provisions. Australia is the only country to have successfully concluded a trade deal with the US without such a clause, the US-Australia free trade agreement.

The Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement will be the world's biggest.

US companies are enthusiastic users of the provisions. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development says a record 58 cases were under way last year. In one, a US resource company is suing Canadian province of Quebec for imposing a moratorium on coal seam gas extraction while it examines claims of environmental damage.

Opening Australian governments to lawsuits over resource extraction, foreign land purchases, pharmaceutical benefits and health measures is a potential minefield for the new government.
Its policy is to remain ''open to utilising investor-state dispute settlement clauses as part of Australia's negotiating position''.

In a written statement to Fairfax Media, Mr Robb said it would be ''premature to discuss positions we may wish to pursue on this or any issue under discussion in the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement negotiations''.

''In opposition the Coalition stated that it would consider the inclusion of ISDS provisions in free trade agreements on a case-by-case basis. It would be wrong, however, to assume this changes Australia's current position on ISDS in the context of the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations.''

Mr Robb will attend trade ministers' talks on the Trans Pacific Partnership on the sidelines of the APEC meeting in Bali next month. Prime Minister Abbott will discuss the partnership at a meeting of leaders including US President Obama in Bali.


Letter in the age 250913

Please say no to this

Seeing that Mr Abbott is on a roll of saying ''no'', I am hoping he will say ''no'' to the very disturbing provisions of the secretive Trans Pacific Partnership.
If Mr Abbott signs up to it, Australia will find not only its Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme threatened, but also its internet freedoms, and multinational corporations overriding state laws. Peter Martin is to be commended for breaking the media silence on this (''Trade treaty stance the same, despite promise'', 23/9).
Noel Wauchope, Caulfield South




Item in Choice magazine, September 2013

Choice recently attended the 18th round of negotiations for the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) in Malaysia and raised concerns the agreement may include provisions that will harm Australian consumers, particularly in the areas of intellectual property and food and health labelling.

The notoriously secretive TPP has been holding its negotiations behind closed doors – the only information available about the TPP have come from leaked drafts.

The TPP currently includes 12 countries – Japan, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US, Vietnam and Australia.



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Preston, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm